Music From Another World by Robin Talley

Music From Another World is a young adult book set in 1977 about teenagers in California becoming friends, getting into music, and dealing with the realities of sexuality in late 70s America. Tammy’s strictly religious family don’t know that she’s gay, but she writes unposted letters to her hero Harvey Milk to describe her situation to someone. When a school project forces her to have a pen pal from the state, she didn’t expect to get someone from San Francisco. Sharon is getting into punk and hiding her brother’s sexuality from their mother, and Tammy becomes someone she can start to share things with via their letters. When things escalate, it turns out Tammy and Sharon might need each other more than they realised.

Robin Talley has written another young adult book that combines important historical moments—in this case, Harvey Milk’s political career, and parts of the battle for LGBT rights—with a story of friendship and love and people standing up for who they are. The novel is entirely written in letters, both unposted ones and those between the two protagonists, and the style works well both to bring across the perspectives of the two characters and the ways they’re being honest or not so honest with each other and themselves, and to frame the novel’s setting as a time before an easier way to get to know a remote stranger. In a world where people use the internet to find other people like themselves, Music From Another World shows how people did the same thing before it.

This is the sort of novel that allows people, both young adult and otherwise, to enjoy the empowering narrative and also think about important movements and milestones of the twentieth century that it is worth finding out more about. It is gripping and readable, showing how struggles both political and personal haven’t necessarily changed a huge amount, and how people can fight to be themselves.